by Lyn Waldeck
When I first started training with Bob back in the early to mid 1990s, I was fortunate to be able to sit through hundreds of evaluations with him. Hundreds of times I heard him ask the question, “So Johnny, what do you do for fun?” One evening over a working dinner meeting he went to great lengths to tell me how important that simple little question is in getting to understand what makes a kid “tick.” It allows us to see various obsessions or DSAs (Debilitating Sensory Additions) a child may have. It allows us to see gaps in global maturity that need to be addressed. It identifies who is at a loss of how to put their thoughts into words. It also provides a wealth of information when it comes to assisting the parent in how to guide the child’s day. In this particular article I want to address how to take a passion and use it to motivate a child in the advancement of his education.
I am always shocked at some of the monotonous writing assignments given in school. The one that really pushes my buttons is when they assign the child to write a persuasive paper and give them a topic that they have no frame of reference for or don’t have any interest in. To become a good writer, it is much more productive to use a subject that the student already has a foundation of knowledge in and has a passion for. On program many of you will have “Fun Unit Studies” written on a line of your program. Truthfully, I wish we could make that one little line about 5 inches bigger than the rest of the academic activities. It seems to be an item left off more times than not and is a huge loss in opportunity. I think that most of the time it is because you really don’t grasp what we mean by “Fun Unit Study” to begin with. It is not meant to be a note to motivate you to purchase pre-packaged curriculum. How can anything be individualize and yet pre-packaged? While there are some wonderful tools that can be used for unit studies, we do not mean following a plan that is laid out without the interest of the child taken into consideration. Some of the best unit studies start with a simple question from the child. If it is fun to continue gathering information, then continue. If it loses its appeal, move on to something else. I can remember the first time one of my son’s saw a school history book. He was disgusted that Christopher Columbus got less than half of a page devoted to him. His comment was, “Didn’t we spend 6 months learning all about things to do with him?” Then he went on to list the things not covered in the history text. These were things he had learned approximately 6 years before. The reason he retained that information over the course of time was because he was interested in the first place and we proceeded in a fun way with the learning.
I want to let you observe two videos that have been sent to me by wonderfully smart boys on my caseload who inspired me to write this article. I will not go into their original challenges that brought them to us, but I will say that each of the mothers has done an amazing job of working to put pieces together so that their brilliance can shine through. These parents have an understanding of how to work on processing and make learning child-centered. As a result these boys have retained information in areas of interest that they have spent a lot of time gathering. They research their topics of interest and share with an enthusiasm that makes me want to learn more about what they are saying.
As you look towards a future for your children, let’s not bore them with meaningless memorization for tests only to have them forget most of what is drilled in to them. Let us explore their passions, research and expand knowledge, and work with them on ways to communicate to others in a way that makes the information come alive.
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